June 19th, 2004


Fading Tokyo Fax Paper

I'm giving the flat a proper sorting out. I've been meaning for a while to digitise various sheets of paper I've kept over the years. The writing below was written during the perilous part of my sojourn in Tokyo. I used to type on a Japanese word processor that printed out on fax paper. It's faded over time, but it's still largely legible.

Seems like fairly cluster heavy writing to me. I find myself saying 'Just spit it out!' as I've been typing it up. It even refers to its three literary inspirations: JG Ballard, Paul Auster and Thomas Pynchon.

I can't remember what was going to happen in this story, apart from the general loss of marbles all round. There's a fair bit of me in both Skinner and Wesley.

Wesley awoke to the sound of several pleats of fax paper spilling out on to the floor. More considerate machines would have left a batch of [...] piled up around the paper exit, but this machine, with only a minimum of features, concertinued [sic] the document. Generally an item of this length would [...] heat-and-serve meals, trips to the cinema [...] negligible dinner date, but Wesley had noted [...] distinguishing features of this script, in eight point, it seemed the work of scribe and stylus, crosshatched cuneiform. And most distinguishingly, a single character, enlarged to fill the page:粟

[This character reads as awa or zoku. It means millet and infers goosebumps and, just about, poppy]

Around page eight, Welsey surmised, he groaned, narrowing the slit through which he watched theevent, slipping back into a dumbfounded sleep.

Although it does not fall within the mission objectives of my work to deal with Skinner's correspondence, I have chosen to do so for several years now. In general, my work involves patching up the syntax and register of documents, technical manuals and such. At first I though I could devote myself to the work in earnest commitment, my own existential act of being for oneself. I would revise these blunders as if each piece of work could contain all the precision and clarity that language is capable of, but the obstacle in this proved neither the volume of work nor the tedium. Rather, it was that I enjoyed the confusion of electrical goods' instructions, the meandering poise of the political discussion, the heady sterility of [...] report, the sheer boundless invisibility of it. Where once I had filled the margins as if composing a kabbalistic concordance of association, now it was merely necessary that each page had the appearance of being corrected. It was always readily accepted. The smug assurance felt by the company that no headaches, child beating or, above all, laughter would ensure. It could be placed with pride before any native speaker, refractions of word order ironed out into the plainsong of universals.

But Japan has many Wesleys and they all take their part in the production of an absolute nothing, a technical guide to the maintenance of the void.

It was Skinner who suggested this to him. At this time, meetings with Skinner on the physical plane were still common, they would meet at Skinner's flat or some cafe. The drift from there into these textual paths and stairways had been gradual. Skinner would pull change from his pocket, the coins would be mixed up with tiny pieces of paper. At first this had appeared the common fluff and detritus of any of the city's inhabitants. But later, when Skinner chanced to leave a bowl of this numiscence at his flat, he noted that each piece was either a word, isolated characters or swatch of colour, generally isolated elements of genitalia, which Wesley keenly noted as a reverent echo of Ballard's psychic geography, advertising hoardings the schemata of the sex-death nexus.

Later, Skinner would decline to pay the bill altogether, leaving Wesley to wonder whether his pockets had grown empty or if the presence of currency reduced the filling space. As time progressed, Skinner would fail to show for meetings, usually providing excuses that were complex baroque fugues, their believability increased, they called for ever more elaborate movement of cast and stage. But when Skinner claimed he had been at some meeting place all along, Wesley was faced with two choices, that either Skinner's conceptions of time ands space had degenerated to a previously inconceivable null point, or that Skinner had gone spectral and appeared only under appropriate lighting conditions, such as infrared. It is to Wesley's credit that he was able to entertain the second of these possibilities.

It was at this point that any substantive contact between them was measured only at the meeting of thermal head and sensitised paper. It is not that Wesley had not frequently attempted to talk frequently to talk on the phone, but it was always unanswered or suddenly disconnected. This was the same case for the fax, which rarely could ever be transmitted to, instead the state of communication, such as it was, lay in a domain of declamatory propaganda, unpublished tracts for the endtime, scenes of horror and abandonment, the detached chuckle of the author now only a further point of torment and loss.

It was now impossible to even attempt a reply, since all faxes were sent from convenience stores, Skinner now stripped of location. Wesley, copying a character in a Paul Auster story, in turn the echo of Impolex G, the pitch and yaw of Slothrop and the V2. Or so Skinner had said. A man with a sufficient history of unemployment to have read Pynchon ab extremis. Yet, despite thirty four pins inserted into a Tokyo map, there was no discernible pattern and gave up the exercise as nostalgic indulgence to Skinner's fancies. If he had substituted a map of mid-nineteenth century Edo, a startling picture would have emerged, Skinner had translated himself through devious turnings and backtrackings to a point at which the were and shall of the city are dovetailed shances on any afternoon. Skinner would stumble through car park, graveyard, market place, river bed, the surge of time burning into his eyes. Or else, he was sat in some snack bar, limping to the gents, the sophisticated sheen of drool on his chin.

[At this point the manuscript breaks off. There may be more in these piles of paper. I can't remember]